Needlework Development Scheme: Symposium

_IGP1531Last Wednesday we had the pleasure of attending a symposium about the Needlework Development Scheme held at Edinburgh College of Art/University of Edinburgh.

The Needlework Development Scheme is an important and overlooked part of Scotland’s textile history. Founded by Scottish thread manufactures J&P Coats in 1934 with the specific intention of educating through study and practice, a collection of over 3,500 embroideries was distributed when the scheme disbanded in 1961, between Edinburgh College of Art, Glasgow School of Art, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Grays School of Art, The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Embroiders Guild and The Royal Scottish Museum.

Edinburgh College of Art has, like the other institutions involved, a beautiful collection of antique textile samples, once part of the ambitious Needlework Development Scheme (NDS) that aimed to “encourage interest in embroidery and raise the standard of design and technique.” ECA’s collection has been lying inert in boxes, hidden in the ECA board room wine cellar, only rediscovered in 2011, exactly fifty years since the Scheme ended in 1961.

A project entitled Revival and Re-invention, embroidery heritage in the 21st century, is currently underway. The main objective of this project is to re-establish connections between these institutions, re-linking the collection and scoping focal points to ensure an exciting future for the collection with relevance for education in the 21st century.

Frances Lennard, senior lecturer in Textile Conservation at the University of Glasgow, inspecting an item from ECA's NDS collection

Frances Lennard, Senior Lecturer in Textile Conservation at the University of Glasgow, inspecting an item from ECA’s NDS collection

_IGP1539Last week’s Symposium was the first of hopefully many attempts to get all the institutions with NDS collections together to discuss the future of the NDS. In the morning, Lindy Richardson, Programme Director of Textiles at ECA, and invited speakers, including Frances Lennard, Senior Lecturer in Textile Conservation at the University of Glasgow; GSA’s Archivist Susannah Waters, and Matthew Jarron, curator of  Museum Services at the University of Dundee, spoke about the history of the scheme, the idiosyncrasies of the various institutional NDS collections, and the conservation of textiles. In the afternoon we had a chance to view items from ECA’s NDS collection, then we had group discussions about the potential, for example, to reinstate the scheme; to create an online resource; and to provide wider access to the collections. The event was a great success: We all learned from each other about the care of our collections; shared best practice and exchanged knowledge about the history of the NDS and about how the collections can be used in the future.

As part of a tour of the country’s NDS collections, Lindy Richardson and Lucie Whitmore from Edinburgh College of Art visited us a few months ago to view GSA’s NDS collection (see our previous blog post).

Visit the Revival and Re-invention project website for more details. You can also view a selection of Glasgow School of Art’s NDS pieces on our flickr.

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The Needlework Development Scheme

GSA's Archivist Susannah shows ECA researchers Lindy and Lucie some items from our Needlework Development Scheme textile collection.

GSA Archivist Susannah shows ECA researchers Lindy and Lucie some items from our Needlework Development Scheme textile collection

Researchers from Edinburgh College of Art visited us last week to have a look at some items from our textile collection and to discuss the Needlework Development Scheme. Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections Centre has a collection of around 125 textiles that were formerly part of the Needlework Development Scheme, (1936-1962), a sheme set up by thread manufacturers J & P Coats with the stated aim being to encourage greater interest in embroidery and raise the standard of design. When the scheme disbanded, the textile collection was split up between various Scottish institutions.

F40_NDS1075, Embroidered apron, Portugal, 19th century

F40_NDS1075, embroidered apron, Portugal, 19th century, an item from GSA’s Needlework Development Scheme textile collection

Lindy Richardson and Lucie Whitmore from Edinburgh College of Art were excited to see our collection of textiles from the scheme, as they have recently uncovered a number of items themselves. Edinburgh College of Art are now looking for people with memories of the Needlework Development Scheme. See below:

NDS poster

Unsung Heroes

 

Unsung Heroes installation

Unsung Heroes installation. Image credit: Shannon Tofts

Unsung Heroes installation

Unsung Heroes installation. Image credit: Shannon Tofts

Last year Lothian Health Services Archive was involved in a HLF-funded project called ‘Unsung Heroes’, in which students and staff from Edinburgh College of Art produced new pieces based on their experience of Lothian Health Services Archive material relating to nursing (including their collection of historic nursing and hospital badges), along with oral histories collected from current and retired nurses. Some of the historic badges and the new pieces created have formed a permanent installation in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. More information about the project is available on their website.